Deaf-Blind Program

  • The Deaf-Blind program was established in 1991. It was created by a Leader Dog team member who recognized the need; he is recognized nationally as a pioneer in this field.
  • Leader Dogs are trained to guide individuals who are both deaf and blind.
  • On average, six people who are Deaf-Blind graduate each year. Nearly 100 people have graduated from the program since its inception in 1991.
  • Leader Dogs for the Blind has two instructors who communicate with clients in tactile American Sign Language (“reading” hands are gently placed over “speaking” hands to feel the sign language).
  • Leader Dogs are trained to understand and respond to both verbal commands and sign language hand signals.
  • Leader Dogs prepared for Deaf-Blind clients receive up to six months of training (as compared to four months for “standard” Leader Dog training).
  • Leader Dogs assigned to Deaf-Blind clients are hand-picked by the specialized instructors. These dogs are chosen for appropriate attention to the handler and their ability to assume a greater amount of responsibility.
  • Deaf-Blind clients complete a 25-day residential training program at Leader Dogs for the Blind. The client to instructor ratio is 1:2 (as compared to 1:6 for “standard” class).
  • During class, clients learn how to care for and communicate with their Leader Dog. Clients are taught how to travel safely with their new partner as a Leader Dog team or “unit.”